I like Waffle House. This article about the closing of a Waffle House in Bloomington, Indiana could be the saddest thing you read today. It's mostly sad because it profiles some of the regular customers, but also because the dishwasher comes to watch the building torn down. Also, it says the Waffle House was the second oldest restaurant in Bloomington, even though it opened in 1967. That must be continuously operating restaurant, right?
At 79, Bud was tired. Except for Christmas, the restaurant was always open, day and night. Now a developer wanted to replace it with another apartment building for college kids. The offer was too good to pass up.
“Where are we gonna eat?” the old-timers kept asking.
“I don’t know,” Bud said. “Where am I gonna eat?”
This had been his place for 16,767 mornings. None ever felt like this.
According to my post the other day, they won't be around long anyway, I guess, but if you do want to be a food reviewer, here are 25 things you should know. This one's not too bad:
3) The chefs are not your friends, your audience, or your clients. You owe them nothing but your honesty. â€”Jason Sheehan, food editor for Philadelphia magazine and former dining critic for Seattle Weekly and Westword
Just last week, the Times-Picayune in New Orleans laid off 200 employees. Brett Anderson, a James Beard Award winning critic was one of them. Eater has a pretty detailed round up of the remaining professional restaurant reviewers in some of the US's more important food cities.
It all comes down to money: reviewing is an expensive operation. Washington Post critic Tom Sietsema once estimated he spends about $70,000 a year dining out on the paper's dime. A full-time restaurant critic is also a position that's considered more expendable than, say, political reporting, and a mighty attractive job for budget-slicing newspaper executives to cut.
Back in September, The Atlantic had a similar story a couple days after Sam Sifton left his position at the NY Times, and Pat Bruno was let go by the Chicago Sun-Times. This piece has more on the history of restaurant reviewers, which is worth at least a skim.
Fewer and fewer cities still have an Anton Ego-like personality dominating the food scene. As we noted here last month, Portland, Oregon lost its Ego analogue last year and has been surviving with a young, former crime writer on the restaurant beat (the food scene there flourishes). More and more, as newspapers shed their longstanding reviewers, those reviewers go on to write independently about food generally, and their jobs get folded into the paper's general food-writing staff, such as when the SF Weekly replaced longform critic Meredith Brody with critic/blogger Jonathan Kauffman. The days of the all-powerful critic have already been declared over, but there will always be a need for smart people to write about food in a way that makes you want to eat it or not.
In the Momofuku kitchens, where chefs are hospitalized for anxiety-related skin diseases, Tosi is calm. Tosi doesnâ€™t yell. There is no need. She is Samantha from â€œBewitchedâ€â€”she is all serenity, because she knows that things will work out fine in the end. If someone screws up in a Dave Chang kitchen, Chang will scream and rage and tell the person he has no integrity and might as well be working at KFC; then he will have to lie down for a day to recover. One imagines that if anyone ever screwed up in a Christina Tosi kitchen, she would wiggle her nose and, with a magic ping, that person would simply disappear.
Also, Chang bought her 240 Take 5 candy bars for her birthday and challenged her to eat them in a month.
The Boston Globe recently completed a 5 month investigation into area restaurants mislabeling fish on their menu. The Globe collected samples from 134 restaurants, 183 samples in all, and mislabeling occurred in 87 or 48% of the cases. 24 of 26 fish labeled red snapper were not red snapper, and all 23 samples of white tuna were not white tuna. Interesting that over half of the mislabeled fish were either red snapper or white tuna. Without castigating any of the restaurants, some bigger names, chefs and chains, were found on the wrong side of the investigation.
I'd think the Globe could find other things to investigate for 5 months, but I'd be willing to forgive that if they had at least headlined the story, "Something Fishy" like I did.
The Spanish club recruited famed chef Ferran Adria on Thursday to revamp its youth academy menu. The European champions say the former El Bulli chef will redesign the club's La Masia meals to 'foster healthy eating and exercise' by providing the Catalan club's future stars with the best possible diet.
El Bulli is closing on Sunday right around the time that a new documentary, Cooking in Progress, about the famed restaurant is coming out. Along with the movie, there are a bunch of interesting links out there the last couple days.
*The NY Times reviewed it here.
*With the closing, the media has flocked and told us about it. This article is indicative of the "My Meall at El Bulli" genre.
*Earlier in the month, Mark Bittman wrote about cooking with Ferran Adria.
*An interview with Cooking in Progress maker, Gereon Wetzel.
*From several months ago, but still interesting, the NYTimes talks to several chefs about Adria's legacy. David Chang:
The fact is, he moved the entire spectrum of food in every direction, so that as a chef, even if you donâ€™t like his style, he redefined everything you do. Closing down for half the year to do research? Changing the entire menu, 50 new dishes, every year? Amazing.
That title doesn't exist. That person doesn't exist. Certainly when one is talking about the best chef in the world, one is referring to the influence that person has had in the field. If you have a lot of influence, then you're one of the best. That individual doesn't exist, and after all I don't work to be the best, I work to enjoy life. The consequence of that is that you're recognized for your work. I like to be recognized, but I don't work for recognition.
I don't know if anyone saw this coming... Ferran Adria, chef of elBulli, is going to be working with Pepsi on whatever it is that amazing chefs do for giant food companies. I like Coke better, so this is frustrating.